NEW MIDDLETOWN – Ohio (WKBN) – For three quarters defense dominated the 37th annual Penn-Ohio game Thursday night at Springfield Community Stadium. Then it was the defense that sparked a crazy finish as Ohio came from behind to win 10-7 on a touchdown pass with 5:10 remaining in the contest.
It appeared that the Keystoners were going to capture yet another win in the series as they held a 7-3 lead with eight minutes remaining and driving into Ohio territory. With the Pennsylvania team facing a second and nine play from the Ohio 12-yard line, Penn’s quarterback Austin Konieczka threw a pass over the middle, looking for a clinching touchdown. But it was Ohio’s Tyler Powers (United Local) who had other ideas.
“We were playing basic cover two and I saw (Brandon) Mitchell come up and make a hit, the ball was in the air and I just had to come up and make a play on it,” Powers explained of his interception that changed the momentum.
“It felt great. I felt like it was a big weight lifted off of our shoulders. We finally got some momentum back our way,” he added.
Powers interception and 25-yard return, along with a personal foul call on Pennsylvania gave the Ohio team good field position at their own 43-yard line. It also gave them some life as the offense woke up to score five plays later.
Salem’s quarterback Matt Weingart would connect with Columbiana’s Jacob Ward on a 37-yard pass to the Pennsylvania 10-yard line to put the Buckeyes in the red zone. At that point, Lisbon’s Josh Liberati came off the bench to see his first action at quarterback on the night.
Following a run off tackle by Liberati to the 9-yard line, Liberati would roll to his right on his second play, and find Ward in the front corner of the end zone for a 9-yard passing strike. With the conversion, the Buckeyes took a 10-7 lead.
“We had a power package where we put the two big fullbacks and me at quarterback in there and we were going to run it, but he called my number and I stepped up and threw the touchdown,” Liberati said.
“It was a comeback and he (Coach Johnson) said roll out and if it’s there throw it, if not run it. Completion, touchdown,” a smiling Liberati remarked.
“It was really nerve racking,” Crestview Zack Hicks said of the final quarter. “We knew we couldn’t make a single mistake, we had to be assignment sound and just keep playing.”
On the night Hicks would rush for 66 yards on 22 carries. That would earn him “player of the game” honors for the Ohio team.
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The Keystoners grabbed the lead in the game at the 7:20 mark of the second quarter when Konieczka (Moon Area) connected with Maurice Sims (Central Valley) on a 2-yard pass to give them a 7-0 lead. Ohio would cut it to 7-3 when Salem’s Max Righetti booted a 23-yard field goal with 2:48 remaining in the first half.
The game was unusually chippy as four Pennsylvania players were ejected from the game as they would collect five personal foul calls in the game.
“All all-star games are chippy,” Liberati remarked. “A lot of kids think they have something to prove and I mean you don’t. You’re in a all-star game.”